By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
FORT MONMOUTH – Hundreds of memorabilia and bargain hunters began lining up at 8 a.m. last Saturday to claim their piece of Fort Monmouth’s history during the first small lot public sale of items left behind when the U.S. Army closed the base in 2011. When the doors opened a few minutes prior to the scheduled 10 a.m. start, it was a mad dash.
Veterans from the Vietnam and Iraq wars, antiques dealers, resellers, fort neighbors and the curious of all ages swarmed a large warehouse in Oceanport, zeroing in on signage, framed photos and ephemera, hardware, fans and more. Some came with hand trucks and dollies while others pulled up in trucks. A steady line formed near the front door, where representatives of The Auctioneers Group of Neptune handled transactions and fort staff distributed brochures, selling out of some 70 commemorative caps ($5 each) in less than an hour.
Among the popular items marching out the door were coat racks, banners, ladders, office furniture and accessories and anything that had a fort name or emblem on it. A young woman from Jackson, part of a large military family, negotiated to resell some of the signs she had just purchased with another sale-goer as soon as she came off the checkout line. All street signs sold out, as did sturdy wood slat trash cans embellished with metal Army emblems. Five church pews, mattresses, floor mats, rotary telephones and lamp shades all marched out the front door.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Ron Ledwitz, 84, who volunteered to serve in Desert Storm and Desert Shield at age 57 in a special retiree unit, shared fond memories of his days as part of Fort Monmouth’s vibrant military life while clutching a variety of signs.
“Fort Monmouth was Ron’s life,” said his wife, Meryl. “We ate and shopped here, went to the Officer’s Club and celebrated weddings and life events.” Former civilian contractor Michael Golub of Neptune also came to the sale, unaware it was being held in the Motor Pool building he once oversaw.
“I drove for the generals,” Golub said. “I came because I wanted to reminisce.” As he spoke, his former boss surprised him with warm greetings which evolved into an extended conversation. Happy reunions occurred throughout the day. Among them was an encounter between the Rev. Lyddale Akins of Triumphant Life Church and retired Army Col. John Booth. Akins, whose congregation is moving from Asbury Park to their new home in the former fort chapel, has been working with Booth, who was public works director for the for t from 1996 to 2011.
“He’s the historian of the base,” Akins said of Booth, who was wearing a polo shirt that read, “Ft. Monmouth Hero.”
“He gave me so much information on our new chapel, telling me about the history of every stained glass window, who bought it and more. We’re cataloging all this information so we can share it, perhaps in a display for the future,” said Akins. Booth, who resides in Tinton Falls, continues to publish an email newsletter about the fort for over 230 subscribers.
“The turnout was absolutely fantastic with way more people than expected,” said Peter Costanzo, an owner of the The Auctioneers Group.
“Everybody had a great time and got what they wanted, including memorabilia and useful items,” he said. Profits, which by law must be reinvested in the fort’s redevelopment efforts, were still being tallied earlier this week.
This article was first published in the Sept. 28 – Oct. 5, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times
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